Thursday, January 2, 2003


That's the title of a book I came across this morning. Here are some definitions of the term "strip-tease" (sorry, you'll have to mentally add the accents yourself):

Le Petit Larousse: n. m. (de l'anglais to strip, deshabiller et to tease, agacer). Deshabillage suggestif execute en public sur une musique de fond ou de danse.

Le Dictionnaire edite a l'occasion de l'Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme: Devetement progressif d'une dame dont la savante lenteur excite sournoisement les sens.

And finally, the coolest one of all:

Le Dictionnaire de Sexologie: Pantomime erotique, spectacle ayant pour object le deshabillage d'une femme jusqu'a nudite complete sur le rythme d'une musique particuliere ... et sur une trame justifiant ou rendant explicites les attitude de l'effeuillage.

I'd translate this, but I don't really think it's necessary... the French certainly have a - well, frisson - that we can't manage over here. I mean, I'm sure that there are dictionaries and glossaries of sexuality in English, but are they half as exciting-looking as Le Dictionnaire de Sexologie? As an area of study in the English-speaking world, sexuality is totally desexified (if that's not a word, I'd like to consider myself its inventor); I'll bet the French can't desexify their hernia operations.

My French is rustier than it should be, considering that I was, well, "immersed" in it from 1983 to 1998, but listen to this: "Jean Cocteau lui-meme, presentant a la presse un spectacle compose de trois de ses pieces en un acte, declarait, peu de temps avant sa mort, que ce spectacle representait pour lui un "veritable strip-tease de l'ame".

Clunkily: "Jean Cocteau himself, presenting three of his pieces to the press, declared shortly before his death that the spectacle was for him a virtual strip-tease of the soul."

When I was in Paris, I didn't have a great time. I was sick, and the people weren't nice, and I found London and Amsterdam to be full of far more amiable people. But I have to step back occasionally and admire the lilting sensuality of the French language - in evidence anytime except those when someone spits to you that you really did order a box of tampons, not a box of tissue.

I've been looking at this book for about an hour now, and quietly revising my travel plans to spend a bit more time in France. We'll try to fix it so that I don't actually have to communicate with anyone: I just want to listen.

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